Eric Adams has ordered police and emergency medical workers to take more mentally ill people from the streets and subways and put them in hospitals against their will. This is a drastic step to deal with a public mental health crisis that has stumped mayors for decades.
The mayor started dealing with the city’s homeless problem by tearing down homeless camps. On Tuesday, he told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer that he has a “moral obligation” to get people with mental illness the help they may not be able to realize they need.
People who care about civil rights are upset, but the mayor was adamant that he was doing the right thing.
“I know that some people might look at what we’re doing and think that we’re trying to take away people’s rights. No, we’re not. People have the right to be able to live with honor “Adams said.
Adams made a controversial plan to take people with severe mental illness off the streets and subways whether they agreed to it or not. He did this with a lot of passion and moral outrage. He said that it is wrong to see crazy people talking to themselves and doing nothing until they do something dangerous.
“This person is being so irresponsible that we’re pretty sure they’re about to go crazy and hurt someone, but we’re going to wait until it happens. Not with this government, “he said.
The mayor told first responders, outreach workers, and people who work in city hospitals that state law gives them the right to help people whose mental illness makes it hard for them to meet their own basic needs or makes them a danger to themselves.
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“Our state’s Office of Mental Health has confirmed this policy in writing,” Adams said. “The mayor is playing fast and loose with the legal rights of New Yorkers,” said the New York Civil Liberties Union.
But Brendan McGuire, the mayor’s top lawyer, said that Adams is in the clear legally. “There are certain conditions that have to be met,” McGuire said. “This is all in the guidance from the New York State Office of Mental Health.”
The city is setting up a tele-consult hotline to make sure the conditions are met. Outreach workers and first responders in the field can use cell phones and iPads to show clinical experts in real-time who they are dealing with. By watching the person and talking to the outreach workers, the expert can then decide if the person needs to be taken to a hospital for an evaluation.
Dr. Mitchell Katz said that when this happens, a hospital evaluation is needed because it can be hard to decide what to do when trains are going by.
“When the full assessment is done, the psychiatrist may decide that this person does not have a mental illness. This person is high on drugs. Different problems are not covered by the law on mental health. At a subway station, you can’t know that. When a person goes to the emergency room, psychiatric clinicians will watch them and then decide what to do “Katz said.
The mayor’s plan also includes an 11-point legislative agenda to fill in gaps in the mental health laws. The mayor said that anyone could use the program, not just people who are homeless. He told New Yorkers to become what he called “trauma identifiers” and call 311 or 911 if they see someone who needs help.